An estimated 150,000 Lebanese civilians have fled their country since the start of the Israeli bombing campaign, and according to the UN half a million, or 20% of the population, have had to leave home. The main escape route is into Syria, through a crowded border crossing. Many refugees are in a state of shock . “I left my family yesterday,” said one woman. “There was a lot of bombing, I can’t believe we got out of there. My heart’s pumping so fast, Iam so scared, I don’t even know where the rest of my family is.”
In Damascus welcome centres have been set up to look after refugees who do not have relatives in Syria. For decades Syrian troops were present in Lebanon, and there are many ties between the two countries. At Damascus airport some Lebanese are fleeing even further afield.
Not everyone has been able to cross the border so easily, especially the Lebanese who live in the south, and those who are not fortunate enough to have dual nationality. Whole towns and villages have been cut off by the bombing.
A taxi ride to Syria costs nearly 400 euros per person – four times more than usual – and people in remote village have even decided to make the journey across the hills on foot. Petrol prices have shot up because supply lines have been cut, and diesel is being rationed. Food prices have climbed rapidly – with shops asking up to four times more for fruit and vegetables.
Some Lebanese believe their plight has been overshadowed by that of foreign nationals leaveing the country.
“Why is it that we’re being put up here without a roof, without anything, living like beggars on the streets? All I want is to be able to go home,” said one young woman.
For the past decade the Lebanese have been rebuilding their country, and now much of that work is going to waste.